Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Endless Summer: Venice Beach

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”Truman Capote
Venice California - a beach front neighborhood located between Santa Monica California and Marina del Rey – was once marshlands before it was founded as a sea side resort town in the late 1890’s.  Abbot Kinney’s intention for Venice in 1905, was to create the “Coney Island of the Pacific”. Since then, Venice has gone through a series of extreme transformations. But despite all it's different forms, Venice has managed to maintain elements of each of these periods thus creating the patchwork eclectic community it is today. Having lived in Venice for 6 years, there are so many components that make this place special for me. One of the main draws is the long stretch of sandy beaches. There is a reason why 16,000,000 people flock to the beaches of Venice a year. The three-mile stretch of sand is sandwiched between the Pacific and the Venice Ocean Front Walk (aka the “boardwalk”) making this beach experience unique. Whether you want to surf the world famous Venice Breakwater, (a favorite local surf spot), see if White men can’t jump at the outdoor basketball courts lining the beach, compare your strength at "muscle beach", get your fortune told by a card reader then  visit the “Kush doctor” on the boardwalk or just catch some rays -Venice beach has something for everyone.
Best way to cruise around Venice beach are on Linus Bikes
Hands down the best way to experience the beaches of Venice are on wheels (and I don't mean your car!). Adjacent to the “boardwalk” is a bike path that is about 8.5 miles (13.7 km) that allows you to access different points of the beach (and eliminates the stress of parking!). The path begins at Will Rogers State beach (in the Pacific Palisades) and continues southbound along the beach passing through Santa Monica State Beach (goes underneath Santa Monica Pier) to Washington Blvd. in Venice Beach. Along the "boardwalk" there are several places to rent bikes in case you don't have one. You can rent bikes by the hour or you can rent them for a day (renting a beach cruiser for a day cost between $20-30 dollars). On the bike path you will see cyclists, roller bladders, unicyclists, segway’s, scooters, skateboarders and other interesting modes of getting around. Along the bike path you will encounter every walk of life and there are several activities so you can pop off and visit what interests you.
There is also a pedestrian walking path in between the sand and bike path-something for all!
If you happen to be biking along the path on Saturday or Sunday (usually from noon until sunset), you will be sure to hear the rhythmic heartbeat of Venice - the drum circle. This free ritual is not everyone’s cup of tea however the improvisational jam session attracts hundreds of people to play their congas, drums, and shakers while others dance and chant. If you want to check out the drum circle (or avoid it all together), the gathering usually takes place on the sand where Brooks avenue meets the “boardwalk”.
Bike path
Also along the bike path is the $2-million Venice Beach Skate-park. Even if you are not a skateboarder, this is a great place to watch both kids and adults show off their skating talents. Located on the sand near Winward and the “boardwalk”, the 16,000 square foot concrete bowl was designed to pay homage to the empty Venice and Santa Monica swimming pools of the 1970’s (where the legendary Z-boys would skate revolutionizing skateboarding).
Surf the waves of the skate park (or watch the experts instead!)
Skaters of all ages ripping it
Although there are several activities up and down the bike path, my main purpose when heading to the beach is to pay my respects to Apollo and enjoy the sand and sea. My three favorite spots along Venice beach are:
1. Lifeguard tower 26th Avenue (closest to Washington pier)
2. Rose Avenue Lifeguard tower
3. Lifeguard tower 26 closest to Santa Monica (technically Santa Monica).
1. Lifeguard tower 26th Avenue is where I usually meet friends when back in Venice. This is where most Venice locals lay their beach towel. Because beach parking is scarcer in this area, most people access this part of the beach by bicycle. This section of the beach is not populated by many tourists and the vibe is very chilled out. There are a series of volleyball nets and the surf is also very good in this area (Washington pier) making this location a great place to post up and hang out all day. 
Washington Pier in the background
2. Rose Avenue can be quite touristy as its right off of the “colorful” section of the Venice boardwalk, but it’s also a great place for catching some sun and people watching. At Rose Avenue beach, you never know what you will see. Even after spending years on this part of the sand, I still see or witness something (or someone) that surprises me. In case you want to escape from the sun, this beach spot is close to many beach bars, shops and places to eat; including a super great beach bar called Venice Ale House (also serves great food).
The boardwalk
Wow- look at that core strengthening! 
Lifeguard tower 26 towards Santa Monica is another favorite. A great place for family and kids (and typically this part of the beach is made up of just that) lifeguard tower 26 feels very wholesome (especially compared to Rose Ave).  Just across the sand from this beach spot is a little open air beach café (one of 9 along the bike path) that serves food and drinks called Perry’s at the beach. At Perry’s café, you can also rent bicycles, roller blades, paddle boards and surf boards.  
Lifeguard tower 26
View from Perry's at the beach!
So no matter what you decide to do at one of the many beach spots in Venice, there is nothing like spending a day there and cruising along the coast to feel the good California vibrations.
Ah yea...good vibrations

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